Insights

Bar Owners Ordered to Compensate Businessman for Fall

In a case which serves as a warning to the leisure industry that health and safety rules should not be neglected, the owners of a bar where a businessman fell down a flight of stairs, suffering catastrophic injuries, have been ordered to pay him a very substantial sum in compensation.

The middle-aged man was on a night out with former work colleagues when he lost his balance as he descended the stairs, which ran from the first-floor bar to street level. He suffered a fractured skull and brain damage so severe that he was rendered incapable of managing his own affairs.

In ruling the owners fully liable to compensate him for his injuries, a judge found that the stairs were not fitted with a properly constructed or clearly visible handrail. The presence of a curtain at the top of the stairs also meant that the man would not have seen the handrail until the last moment. He lost his balance as he put his foot on the first step and there was nothing he could have done to prevent his headlong fall.

Arguments that the man was drunk and in part the author of his own misfortune were rejected. He was a lawful visitor to the bar and, as occupiers of the premises, the owners had failed in their duty to keep him reasonably safe.

The amount of the man's compensation has yet to be assessed but is bound to run into at least six figures given the severity of his injuries.

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Premises owners who do not act to eliminate known risks receive little sympathy from the courts. Prevention is the best option. Relying on limiting liability through the contributory negligence of the injured party is a risky and potentially expensive approach.

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